Every once in a while, I read a book that leaks through the walls we build as fans, writers, and publishers. Then there are books like Silent Victor: A Clarke Lantham Mystery by J. Daniel Sawyer (Smashwords / Amazon) that kick through those walls and do mean things to them while they’re down.
At its core, this book continues in the vein of the other Lantham stories. That is to say, it’s as close to a traditional noir as anything Dan does is close to anything “traditional”. A long time genre blender, Dan takes this story and infuses science fiction into its warp and weft. Lantham is handed perhaps the strangest case in a long line of strange cases. A meteorite has been stolen from the California Academy of Sciences. If that’s not SF enough, it was taken by a commando team of gray aliens who also abduct and ostensibly probe a security guard, in full view of the cameras. Okay so the probing doesn’t happen in view of the cameras, but there’s evidence.
Like his other cases, Lantham must get at the reality behind the appearances. Sometimes, and this case is no different, the truth he uncovers is stranger than the fiction. There’s also a good deal of science laced throughout the book, so I’m okay with hosting the review here, however tenuous calling this science fiction may be.
This is the longest book in the series and as such it does move more slowly. Dan has more time to weave the complex plot threads he loves with the rich characters he always develops. The risk there is that we as the audience have time to breathe. In past stories the pace has always been breakneck and that provided a great source of tension. That’s not to say this book is lacking in that department. With international incidents, shootouts, murders, explosions, and car chases aplenty; he does keep the pace up, but there are also times where things taper off.
Other books might get bogged down in those in between places. That generally doesn’t happen here. Dan uses those times to twist the knife/throwing star in Lantham’s flesh. I did find myself checking the number of pages I had left once or twice, but again I credit that with being used to much shorter stories featuring these characters.
On that note, one of the things I loved about this book was more Rachael. Lantham’s partner in training, she provides a great deal of comic relief and sass. She takes no BS from her boss and there are a couple of great scenes where he’s teaching her the craft. I humbly request, nay DEMAND more screen time for her. He promises us several more Lantham books to come, so a fan can hope. As usual there’s also the matter of the setting being a “character”. The Bay Area is brought alive in these stories and is crucial to nearly everything that happens from the chase scenes to the culture.
I’m sure it’s evident by now that I enjoyed this book. I give it four and a half Grays out of five. It loses a little for the aforementioned occasional slow bits. If you like your noir spicy with a bit of SF then check it out!
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)